It was a rare rough road start for Carlos Carrasco and the bats of his Cleveland Indians teammates could not kick off the All-Star break rust against Sonny Gray, who led the Oakland Athletics to a 5-0 four-hit shutout late Friday night.
Gray had the daunting task of taking the mound knowing that each start could be the last in the only home that he has known in his professional career. Rumored to be one of the more heavily pursued starting pitchers potentially on the trade block, now with Chicago’s Jose Quintana off of the market, the 27-year-old right-hander had to deal with rumors of his start being scratched less than an hour before first pitch. The speculation swirled through social media and led to him having to put his cell phone away due to the flood of text messages that he received less than an hour before taking the mound from those wondering if there was validity to his participation in “Hug Watch 2017”.
All Gray did from there was pitch like the highly coveted player that interested teams envisioned him to be.
Michael Fulmer pitched at his All-Star level through the first six innings and the Cleveland bullpen could not keep the score tied in the middle innings as the Detroit Tigers dealt the Indians a 5-3 loss to close out the first half of the 2017 regular season schedule.
Sunday’s national broadcast put the Indians and Tigers in the spotlight with an impressive pitching matchup between a pair of All-Stars in Fulmer and Corey Kluber.
For baseball fans who like offense, Friday night’s game at Progressive Field between the Cleveland Indians and the Minnesota Twins was not for you. For those fans who like the old fashion pitchers’ duel, you may have enjoyed the event, unless you are a Cleveland fan, as a first inning solo home run proved to be too much to overcome for the slumping Indians offense as Ervin Santana and the Twins shut out the Tribe, 1-0, on a combined three-hitter.
Josh Tomlin (2-4, 5.87 ERA) looked sharp again on the mound for the Indians on Friday, but was the tough luck loser as one pitch to Miguel Sano just three batters into the game would turn out to be the difference. Santana (6-1, 1.50) worked around traffic on the bases throughout the night, but kept a goose egg in the most important column on the scoreboard for him – Indians runs.
The Indians (18-16) have now dropped six of their last ten and once again failed to open a home series with a win. They have done so just once this season, when they won the home opener against the Chicago White Sox before losing the next two in the series. The Twins (18-14) sit atop the AL Central all by their lonesome with a full game lead over the Indians. They have won ten of their last 14 and have homered in 13 straight during that stretch.
The Cleveland offense could not figure out Tigers starter Daniel Norris on Friday night and a late rally off of the Detroit bullpen fell one run short as the Indians dropped a 7-6 decision in game one of a three-game weekend set.
Cleveland could not solve the left-handed Norris on the mound for six scoreless innings of work as each of the first eight men to the plate would be retired by the southpaw. Meanwhile, the Tigers were able to get an early run of support for him in the second inning off of Indians starter Trevor Bauer and would pile on in the middle innings.
After needing five pitchers (including utility man Michael Martinez) to finish the final seven and one-third innings of Thursday’s loss to the Chicago White Sox, the depleted Cleveland Indians bullpen will get a reinforcement in time for the weekend series with the Detroit Tigers. Reliever Nick Goody was recalled by the club on Friday from Triple-A Columbus and right-hander Shawn Armstrong was sent down to the Clippers after working a career-high two and one-third innings in the defeat.
A lot of years it seems as though the Cleveland Indians go into spring training with countless veteran and minor league pitchers looking to fill the void of several open bullpen spots.
This 2017 spring camp is not exactly like a lot of years.
As in past offseasons, the Tribe did invite a good number of veterans looking for work, as well as young hurlers, to Goodyear, Arizona, for spring training. Part of the infusion of a large number of arms was due to the recently ended World Baseball Classic and the need to fill the void left behind by players going off to represent their countries in the event that goes on every four years.
Unlike past Februaries and Marches in the Arizona sun, there is not much of a void for the Indians to fill in a loaded bullpen that rates among the best in the game. There are a lot pitchers in camp looking for a job, but that opportunity is very elusive.
The Cleveland Indians added yet another arm to their bullpen competition in the spring on Tuesday when they acquired right-hander Nick Goody from the New York Yankees for future considerations.
Parameters of the trade indicate that those considerations, either a player yet to be named or cash, must be made by May 5.